Although treatment has progressed over the last 40 years so that nine out of 10 children with leukaemia now survive, there are still patients whose cancer comes back or doesn’t respond to treatment. These cases are classed as ‘high-risk', and doctors need to know more about how this happens and why.
Professor Roy’s project, titled ‘Understanding molecular mechanisms that drive high-risk childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL)’, aims to find out how certain genes make ALL resist treatment or come back after treatment (relapse).
She said: “It is often difficult to cure patients once they have relapsed, so we need a better understanding of the mechanisms that make these leukaemias high-risk in order to develop effective treatments.”
Professor Roy and team have found genes that leukaemia cells need to survive. In this project, she will look at how the cancer cells behave with and without these genes. This will show exactly how the genes allow the leukaemia to relapse and resist treatment.
She said: “As a clinician myself, I never lose sight of why we are doing the research - always for the benefit of the children affected by leukaemia.
“We hope that our efforts will eventually lead to a meaningful improvement in survival and quality of life for children with high-risk leukaemia.”